As you may know, there are different styles to choose from when deciding your meditation practice. Zazen meditation is the core principle of Zen Buddhism, something that’s so simple and essential in nature that is very difficult to explain.
Zazen is considered the heart of Japanese Soto Zen Buddhist practice, and its meaning can be simplified as Za meaning sitting, and Zen meaning meditation in Japanese – 座禅. Even though we often hear the term Zen somehow related to Buddhism, it’s important to say that Zen isn’t a dogma, a belief or a religion.
“Zen is not some kind of excitement but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” – Shunryu Suzuki
Zen’s a practical experience or an experience that needs practice. Something so tangible, even if it’s untouchable, that can be improved and can benefit from mindful repeated experiences. So what kind of action do we need to practice?
Zen cannot exist without meditation and truly often, you’ll see the terms used interchangeably, but it’s in no way restricted to that. Zazen is an attitude of how you’re experiencing life, an endless conscious attention to the present moment. It’s the absorption of here and now. A zen life is a path of spiritual awakening, as vague as it may sounds.
You may want to start with meditation to slowly instill a bit of Zen – a deliberate wide-awake state of mind, in every moment of your daily life. As one of my favorite quotes says “Zen is not some kind of excitement but concentration on our usual everyday routine.”
To fully enjoy a genuine serendipity we must commit to practice. It’s all about training, the more you’ll do the better you’ll become at it! Both in doing meditation and in being more attentive to our life single moments.
The pain point with practice and improvements in the West arises because we are asked to sharpen our skills in a way we’re not used to, without a scoring system. We cannot track our results as there are no grades and no exams in meditation. Thus, being equipped with a good balance of effort and patience it’s crucial in our journey.
If you’re totally new to meditation, start by setting aside 20 minutes every day just for yourself and mark that somewhere important, whether it’s your favorite app or an old-school post-it. That’s your first genuine commitment!
Choose a position that’s comfortable but not much and close your eyes. To center yourself and your back, slightly swing the upper part of your body few times, to the left and to the right. While doing this pay attention to your body, its weight, how it moves in the space, how loose or tight your joints are. When you feel you have a right position, straight, firm and centered, relax your body.
I always like to do a sort of scan throughout the body. Starting from the head, I focus on the single parts, observing their feeling and slowly trying to relax them. I quietly take mental notes whether I feel warm, cold, relaxed muscles, pain, itch. When I feel calm enough I focus on my breathe.
Breathing is crucial, so in life as in meditation. Your breathing should be smooth and seamless, done using your nose to both inhale and exhale. Now feel your breath, your mind, your body as a whole, as you. There is nothing else you need to do, just be.
Zen’s a practical experience or an experience that needs practice.
Zazen is being awake in the moment, experiencing it as objectively as possible. Try not to judge anything, your thoughts, your body, your beliefs, your meditation technique. Don’t think good or bad, just immerse yourself in the present moment. Experience the simple act of being, being here and now.
When you finish slowly open your eyes. Gradually, take back control over your perception and over your body. Take your time to stand up and do some stretching if you feel like doing it.
There are many benefits associated with Zazen meditation and or with a more zen lifestyle. The most well-known (and proved overtimes) are a lowered blood pressure levels and stress reduction, together with the cutback of memory loss, a growth of attention span and quality sleep improvements.
I personally think beginners should focus their efforts in embracing a path of self-awareness. The aim is to accept whatever results we may encounter during self-discovery. Every step is different and so it’s every personal self-growth journey!